Summary: in such a world of economic, political, and even environmental uncertainty, the love of God is all we have to hang on to. Thank God that it’s more than enough! His love hangs on to us; it will never let us go.
A STEADFAST HEART (Romans 8:35-39)
Introduction: Separation is something we all deal with, in one way or another. What image does this word produce in your mind? For me, I see the picture of a little child lost in a grocery store. Distracted for a moment, the child loses track of what her mom is doing. Suddenly she looks up, and in an instant she realizes she is alone. That look on her face says it all—without her source of security and safety, the store has become much larger than it was before. It has become a dangerous, unfriendly place. And she begins to cry.
In our series, “The Great Physician Cares for Your Heart”, we have talked about an open heart that is humble and repentant, receptive to the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). We have also talked about a discerning heart that looks behind every event in our lives for the grace of God in leading us to glory (Romans 8:28-30). Today we are talking about a steadfast heart, for those times when all of us feel lost and separated from God and the whole world suddenly becomes a dangerous and unfriendly place.
I. When we sin, we separate ourselves from God.
Illustration: A little girl did something wrong, and when her mother found out she began to ask her daughter questions. Immediately the child lost her smile and a cloud darkened her face as she said, “Mother, I don’t feel like talking.” So it is with us when our fellowship with God is broken by sin in our lives. We do not feel like talking Him. If you do not feel like praying, it is probably a good indication that you should start praying immediately. (Billy Graham)
Some of us may have seen the poster with a little kitten stuck in a tree. The caption reads, “Does God seem far away? Guess who moved!”
The painful reality is that we have nobody to blame but ourselves for those times that God seems far away. The serpent tried to convince Eve that there would be no consequences to the first sin when she and Adam disobeyed God, but that was a lie. God was telling the truth when he warned them. As it says in Romans, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
With sin, three kinds of death came into the world:
1) Spiritual death—we were separated from a holy God and could no longer enjoy his presence in the same way. We became dead to God.
2) Physical death—the separation of our soul from our bodies. This is what most people think about when you talk about “death”. It’s not a pleasant topic. Yet, there’s something even worse than physical death!
3) Eternal death—for those who continue in their spiritual separation from God until their physical death, the separation will become complete and permanent. This is what hell is all about—eternal separation from God and any good gift of his that we now enjoy.
II. Jesus came to bring us back to God. (Many people explain this using the picture of a cross bridging the gap created by sin between us and God.) Just as we have nobody to blame but ourselves for our separation from God, so also we have nobody to thank but Jesus for bringing us back, or “reconnecting” us to God!
Illustration: People say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Yet our OT lesson, Isaiah 55:1-5 is an open invitation—from God himself—to a free dinner of the finest food. This may seem like figurative language, but in our Gospel lesson, Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus actually provides the people he’s teaching with a free meal—one with leftovers to spare! Even more than providing bread to eat, however, the ultimate goal Jesus had in mind was to give himself as the Bread of Life. We take away from the greatness of what Jesus has done for us if we describe what he has done for us as anything less than a free gift!
A. The gift forgiveness, or reconciliation, was earned for us at the cross. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” asks Paul. (8:31) God himself is the one who declares us to be just and right for Jesus’ sake! And Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who literally gave himself—his body, and his very life—“for us” on the cross and is now alive again! He has risen from the dead, is in power at God’s right hand, and is pleading “for us” on our behalf. Talk about friends in high places!
B. God communicates his free gift of forgiveness—and new life—to us in a special way:
1) The Word of God, through which God calls us to himself: “The Gospel… is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.” (1:16)